Environmental law includes a fairly wide-ranging set of social concerns, including pollution control and cleanup, land use and urban planning, public health, conservation, and more. Environmental lawyers operate on all levels of government from local to international. They are found in the private sector, in government agencies, and in nongovernmental organizations, often interacting with environmental lawyers from the other sectors as well as nonlegal professionals from one of the earth science or engineering fields. Indeed, it is common for environmental lawyers to move from one sector to another in the course of a legal career, and it is probably unwise to harbor presumptions about the environmental values of an attorney operating in one or another sector. Environmental lawyers can focus solely on litigation matters or serve as regulatory advisors; many do both. They represent corporations, all levels of government, property owners, future generations, and, at times, nonhuman species. Indeed, sometimes it seems as if the only common ground shared by all environmental lawyers is a concern about how humans interact with the earth.
Due to the broad range of earth-based issues that environmental lawyers may pursue, a law student interested in a career as an environmental lawyer would be wise to seek some amount of training in a variety of legal areas. Certainly a law student who is serious about environmental law should enroll in some number of environmental law courses, starting in the fall of the second year of law school, and should seek to vary these learning experiences by including clinical, simulation, and seminar classes in the mix of courses. If possible, environmental lawyers should understand business structures such as corporations, and should develop their knowledge of topics such as real estate, land use, bankruptcy, trusteeships, and insurance. The practice of environmental law invariably necessitates working with regulators, making courses that focus on regulatory agencies and on crafting creative solutions to multifaceted problems highly useful for the budding environmental lawyer. No student can complete coursework in all of the above-listed areas during a typical three-year course of legal study, but any student focused on environmental law can emerge from law school with a grounding in a pertinent range of doctrine and practice skills.